• Jimmie Lewis III

Letter of Recommendations


In general, most schools require 3-5 letters. Each school requires unique letter requirements. This is the part where organization skills can come in handy. Make sure you know what the requirements are for each school you are applying for. The best letters of recommendation come from persons who have seen you perform in some capacity – student, student leader, employee, researcher, volunteer. The weakest letters are of the “character reference” variety (from the clergy member who knows you only as a person who attends weekly services, for example) or come from influential persons (your mother’s college roommate’s sister, who is on an admissions committee) who barely know you.


General Tips:

  1. DO NOT be afraid to ask. For some reason, students are often afraid to ask for a letter of reference. You don’t want to be pushy, but you should show authority in your voice – don’t be timid when asking. Writing these letters should be relatively easy for these faculty members. Faculty members know it is part of their job and should treat it as such. When you do ask, you must state, “Hi, Dr. SO&SO, are you willing to write a STRONG letter of recommendation for me? The keyword here is “strong.” Of course, a professor can agree to write a letter for you, but it may be fragile and hurt your chances of professional school admissions if they don't write a great one. So, remember to use that key phrase “strong letter of recommendation.”

  2.  DO ask for letters early, DO NOT wait until your application is due. Make sure that the person you ask has a fresh idea of you in mind. When you are finishing an internship opportunity with a professor, ask for a letter within a few weeks after it is complete. If you are ending a volunteer experience at the end of a semester, ask for a letter before finals week. It would help if you were thinking of every professor and faculty mentor that you work under as a potential letter writer. Especially if you are thinking about applying straight into medical school during your senior year, you have only had three years to get your letter package together. Waiting until a couple of months before you apply to get your letters in order is a recipe for disaster. During your first two years, focus on doing well and standing out in your classes so that you have a handful of options to ask by your third year. However, it’s never too early to secure a letter of recommendation in your first couple of years! If you do particularly well in a class or develop a strong relationship with any professor in your lower-division courses and believe that the faculty mentor can speak to your academic ability, don’t hesitate to pop the question! Never be afraid to ask a professor if they are willing, the worst that can happen is they say no. Future applicant version of you will be very grateful. It is best for those of you who want a set timeline to have an idea of your letter writers by Spring vacation (mid-March) and have asked them all by the beginning of April. This will give them at least two months to compose and submit your letters before your submission deadlines. 

  3. DO ask for letters when the writer knows you best – right after you have finished working with them. Sure, the letter may not be specifically for the program you are applying to and dated two years in advance, but here is the thing: the work of writing a letter only has to be done once. The mentor will have a much easier time writing a letter at this point than two years down the road when you are a distant memory. Faculty save these letters in case the student comes back for another one. Do you think you are imposing on a faculty member by asking for two letters? The second one only takes a change of date and a few words here and there to make it specific to medical, dental, pharmacy, or other health professional schools. Trying to remember a particular student from two years ago is hard if you do not have a close relationship with the professor! Asking early also helps you in case you change courses in life. In fact, Many successful medical school students entered school after a post-baccalaureate program.

4. DO NOT become a stalker. Do not send multiple emails, leave messages, or notes on their desk if your letter of recommendation was not yet submitted. I know this is tempting because I almost fell into the type A tendency trap. But hold back! Send one email and maybe follow it up with a phone call at least three to four weeks prior to the deadline. If you do not hear anything, assume they are not writing a letter for you. PLEASE DO NOT ONLY DEPEND ON THREE PEOPLE TO WRITE A LETTER. Instead, make sure to ask for recommendations from more than three letter writers because if one faculty member flakes out, you still have a fall-back plan and are not short of recommendations. This can become a student’s application nightmare since everything HAS to be complete for professional schools to even take a look at your credentials.



Here is a breakdown of different requirement for each program. Generally, they will ask for science faculty, doctor you have shadowed and a non-science faculty.


MD:

Most medical schools will require at least three letters of recommendation. Often times schools will ask or recommend that your letters come from specific people, including: – Science faculty (Usually schools ask for 2 letters from science faculty) – Non-science or major faculty – Non-academic professionals – Physicians or other health professionals.


DO:

Most medical schools will require at least three letters of recommendation. Often times schools will ask or recommend that your letters come from specific people, including: – Science faculty (Usually schools ask for 2 letters from science faculty) – Non-science or major faculty – Non-academic professionals – Osteopathic physicians or other health professionals Once a reference is completed on the AACOMAS application, it may NOT be removed or replaced. Research your schools’ requirements before entering evaluator information in AACOMAS. Some schools may want letters mailed directly to them rather than uploaded to AACOMAS. Visit the Program Page in AACOMAS for each school you plan on applying to to see school-specific instructions.


DPM:

Most medical schools will require at least three letters of recommendation. You will send your letters directly to each school or use a letter service such as Interfolio or Virtual Evals. Each school has different letter requirements, but you should aim to have letter(s) from the following individuals: – Two science faculty – A podiatric physician that mentored you or that you have shadowed – A professional outside of school.




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JIMMIE EARL LEWIS III

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